MILWAUKEE -- Matt Garza's next scheduled start is Sunday against the Nationals, by which time active rosters will have expanded and some reinforcements will have arrived at Miller Park. With Garza in the worst stretch of his season and the Brewers fighting to hang on in a pennant race, will they stick with the plan?
"Right now," manager Craig Counsell said in the wake of Tuesday's 10-2 loss to the Cardinals, "that's what we are doing."
Could they re-examine the situation after September callups arrive? Brandon Woodruff appears set to start Saturday in another open spot, but left-hander Brent Suter should be ready to come off the 10-day disabled list on Friday, and right-handers Junior Guerra and Taylor Jungmann are already on the 40-man roster and pitching well as starters for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
"I think moving forward, we have to examine everything," Counsell said. "We're looking at how to arrange the rotation right now. We'll take a look at that going forward."
Against the Cardinals, Garza was charged with six runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks in 3 1/3 innings, marking the second time in five starts he hasn't cleared the fourth inning, and the fourth time in those starts he did not pitch past the fifth. The walks hurt him, but so did a series of defensive miscues in a three-run third inning, including one play involving Garza himself.
"It's a tough game, obviously," fellow veteran Ryan Braun said. "Especially as you get older, the reality is that we all have to make adjustments. For the most part, I think he's done a great job of that all year, kept us in basically every game that he's pitched in."
Garza, in the final guaranteed season of a $50 million contract, has endured three stints on the 10-day disabled list yet pitched effectively in his first 16 starts, posting a 3.68 ERA and a .249 opponents' average in those games. They included an Aug. 3 win over the Cardinals in Garza's return from his most recent DL stint for a right calf injury.
In five starts since then, however, he has surrendered 22 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings while putting 52 men on base on 31 hits, 16 walks and a hit batsman.
Garza has alternated particularly poor starts with competitive ones. He was charged with eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings at Minnesota on Aug. 8, then pitched into the sixth and surrendered three earned runs to beat the Reds five days later. He was saddled with eight runs (seven earned) in 4 1/3 innings at Colorado on Aug. 18, then held the Giants to a run in five innings five days later.
Then came Tuesday, when Garza threw 87 pitches to get 10 outs. He stranded baserunners in each of the first two innings, making a terrific barehanded play for the final out of the second. But in the third inning, the Brewers twice botched opportunities to turn double plays before the Cardinals struck for a 3-0 lead. Garza took part in one of those plays, a bases-loaded comebacker which he bobbled, then threw home to Manny Pina for a run-scoring error charged to the catcher.
The Cardinals scored four more runs in the fourth inning, three of which were charged to Garza.